With the arbitrator’s award of $2.75 million to Antti Niemi, the Chicago Blackhawks have decided to walk away from Niemi, thus making him an unrestricted free agent (UFA).
In turn, Chicago signed goaltender Marty Turco to a one year $1.3 million deal.
In New York, the Islanders have bought out the last season of the two-year $6 million contract of Defenseman Brendan Witt.
In Atlanta, the Thrashers traded center Todd White ($2.3 million) to the New York Rangers for forward Patrick Rissmiller ($1 million) and Donald Brashear ($1.4 million).
Atlanta will then place Brashear on unconditional waiver and buy out his contract. If Brashear is not claimed, he would become an UFA.
What the above points out is clearly what I wrote about in a previous article about the NHL’s salary cap.
Chicago is basically down to its core players from last season—Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook.
They have five other players that played secondary roles last year, 18 players currently signed, and are still $1.7 million OVER the cap.
So the question might be asked—was the Stanley Cup and its bonuses ($4 million) worth it?
Of course it was because that’s the name of the game. But will this team, having to be gutted because of salary problems, be a force next season with what’s left?
Does this mean that Chicago will go back to just trying to make the playoffs?
You think Chicago’s got a problem? Just have a look at a few other teams.
The following teams are all OVER the salary cap.
Vancouver Canucks: lead all NHL teams—$2.6 million (23 players signed)
The Canucks may get a break at the start of the season, which would allow them to get under the salary cap with Sami Salo’s salary ($3.5 million) eligible to be placed on the LTIR.
The other option would be to waive a couple of players and replace them with players of lesser contract amounts.
The third I have discussed several times would be to shed Kevin Bieksa’s cap hit of $3.75 million via a trade.
The other teams to follow will have the same dilemma having to either trade a top player, place them on waivers, or trade down salaries with another team.
Calgary Flames: $2.3 million (23 players signed)
The obvious player here that had not only the Flames fans, but hockey fans in general, scratching their heads is Olli Jokinen ($3 million).
Another player off their defense might be Cory Sarich ($3.6 million) if one of the Flames younger, and less expensive, D-men steps up.
New Jersey Devils: $2.3 million (21 players signed)
This amount is still contingent on Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract being deemed valid by the NHL.
The Devils have made it known that they would like to trade Patrik Elias and his $6 million contract, but who has the cap space needed to bring him aboard?
Another player the Devils have is Brian Rolston.
New Jersey could try and force the issue by waiving him or sending him to the minors to force retirement, but it's doubtful that would provide much, if any, relief.
First of all, his cap hit would only be reduced by $100,000, and Rolston is a player that is 35-plus years old, which means his average salary of $5.2 million will count against the Devils cap even if he retires.
Boston Bruins: rounding the group up at $2.1 million (21 players signed).
Marc Savard ($4 million) has been in a number of rumors as the Bruin most likely to be moved. The prominent rumor, involving Thomas Kaberle and the Maple Leafs, would make sense if it wasn't for Kaberle's salary.
How could the Bruins take on Kaberle’s $4.2 million contract which, in essence, increases their cap problems?
He could go to any other of the 15 NHL teams that do have plenty of cap space. All they need is a buyer.
In conclusion, the cap space has definitely brought parity to those NHL teams that want and can spend to the cap limit, but it has also caused many problems to those that are constantly up against it or are successful.